A WOMAN who had a third of a finger bitten off in a vicious dog attack in Ballinamallard last year feels the investigation by the Council was “very poorly handled”.

The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was out walking her dog on the Salloon Road, Ballinamallard around 3.30pm on Saturday, April 13, 2019 when she was attacked by what was believed to be a Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

At the time, the dog attack was reported to the dog warden and an investigation was started.

However, a spokeswoman for Fermanagh and Omagh District Council told The Impartial Reporter this week that the “case closed due to insufficient evidence to take enforcement action”, and said that the “dog was seized, in accordance with dog control legislation, as it was a stray dog with no owner”.

The husband of the woman who was attacked spoke to The Impartial Reporter on his wife’s behalf, saying that they would be of the opinion that the investigation was “very poorly handled”.

‘No prosecution’

“After their [the Council’s] so-called investigation, there was no further [action]. They couldn’t prove that who we strongly believed owned the dog, did own the dog, so there’s no prosecution rising out of it,” said the man, adding that he didn’t think dog wardens were “fit for purpose”, in terms of an investigative role.

“Our point was if it was an attack by a human on a dog, the police would investigate it, who have the expertise, but obviously an attack by a dog on a human has dog wardens [to investigate],” the man told this newspaper.

In February, 2020, the couple were joined by Ulster Unionist Councillors Diana Armstrong and John McClaughry to meet with the Council’s solicitor and animal welfare officer about the investigation.

Of the meeting, Councillor Armstrong said: “Following that, we asked the Council to give us a presentation on the work of the animal welfare officers, and that was very helpful.”

She continued: “Really, the upshot of the case was that the Council did not have the sufficient evidence to be able to pursue an offence.

“We felt a lot of sympathy as councillors for the staff within the Council because if a dog attack could be likened to a person assault, the police would be in and they would be investigating.

“In this case, this was a serious assault – the woman lost a third of her finger – so there is that difficulty there in securing evidence, because when interviews were carried out, it was difficult to get the man who the Council thought was the owner to come in.”

It is understood that a suspect did eventually attend voluntarily, but denied owning the dog, and as the dog wasn’t registered or chipped there was no proof of ownership.

Councillor Armstrong said: “We’re very unhappy that we’re not able to get a prosecution. As a councillor, I feel for the woman. I know what she’s gone through, and I feel very sorry that this is adding to the distress.

“As councillors, John McClaughry and myself have huge sympathy for what the woman has gone through, but we recognise that nobody could be made [accountable].

“It’s unfair for Council staff to have to carry out complex investigations, and if it had been an assault with a person assaulting another person, it would’ve been a police investigation, so we think the police are better resourced or could be given further resources.

“They should take on that role, where prosecutions could be made against perpetrators, because dog attacks are increasing and this was a particularly serious attack which has caused an awful lot of trauma.”